2002 is a significant year in terms of our consideration of the state of our environment, the impact of our activities on it, and the consequences for future generations. The Johannesburg Summit 2002 – the World Summit on Sustainable Development – will bring together tens of thousands of participants, including heads of State and Government, national delegates and leaders from non-governmental organisations (NGOs), businesses and other major groups to focus the world's attention and direct action toward meeting difficult challenges, including improving people's lives and conserving our natural resources in a world that is growing in population, with ever-increasing demands for food, water, shelter, sanitation, energy, health services and economic security.

The expected global changes to the Earth system and the associated impacts on human civilisation will make information on our environment increasingly vital for the effective and sustainable future management of the Earth.


We can anticipate that this information might be used by intergovernmental bodies for decision-making and global governance to ensure sustainability, and also more locally as countries, regions, and industries compete for larger shares of smaller reserves of natural resources in order to support their growing populations and economic ambitions. Observations of planet Earth itself, of our environment, might be regarded as the most important information of all, as the context for all decisions.

The current ambitions for greatly enhanced understanding, monitoring, management and mitigation of key Earth system processes will be possible only with the measurement capabilities offered by the Earth observation satellite programmes being planned by the world’s space agencies. The major aim of the Committee on Earth Observation Satellites (CEOS) is to achieve international coordination in the planning of Earth observation satellite missions and to maximize the world-wide utilisation of data from these missions. This role includes participation in the activities of the Integrated Global Observing Strategy Partnership (IGOS-P), to ensure that future space-based observing systems and Earth-based observing systems will be suitably harmonised to address the most critical requirements.

It gives me great pleasure, on behalf of CEOS, to present the 2002 Edition of the CEOS Handbook, prepared by the European Space Agency (ESA) – as the Chair Agency of CEOS in 2002. The report presents the main capabilities of Earth observation satellites and their major current and future applications, and a systematic overview of present and planned Earth observation satellite missions and their instruments.

I hope that the CEOS Handbook will continue to serve as a valuable reference source for a variety of users, including those with needs in Earth system research, and decision-makers in political and socio-economic sectors. I further hope that it can assist the harmonisation of our efforts on a global scale, which is central to our future success.

Prof. José Achache
Director of Earth Observation Programmes
CEOS Chairman (2002)
European Space Agency